5th law of mastery

5th law of mastery


Often, teaching a concept stops at the Acquire stage, discussed in the previous lesson. But our goal of understanding is more ambitious - for students to be able to generalise their understanding to a range of contexts. This is the Apply stage and the video sets out why this involves teaching rather than being something students learn to do automatically.


You've seen that many students struggle to recognise when to use their knowledge. This is largely because they haven't gained a sufficiently abstract understanding of the concept. When faced with new situations they can only see superficial similarities, not the underlying structural ones that are essential.

We have suggested two approaches to this problem. The first is to spend time in Acquire building a stronger mental representation of the conceptual model. The second is to teach strategies for applying knowledge:

- A specific strategy for how to recognise the concept and what information to use
- A general strategy for approaching Apply questions.

The Practice Book is the best source for how to do this.

Find out more

Try this activity:
1. Look at one of the Apply problems (p9-12 of the Workbook).
2. Notice all the learning principles being used to help students Apply. Note them down.
3. Compare your answers with our Apply learning principles.


Exam questions increasingly demand the ability to Analyse. What does this mean? From our review of exam questions and what UK awarding bodies publish, we have identified a number of processes.

Interpret: Draw a conclusion, Make a generalisation
Evaluate: Analyse errors, Identify weaknesses, Adapt a procedure
Compare and contrast: Defend an inference about, Develop an argument, Improve a procedure, Justify a prediction about, Make a prediction, Judge, Evaluate 

Try this activity:
1. Do the Analyse challenge yourself (p18 of the Workbook) and write a model answer.
2. Determine which of the Analyse processes above it is testing. 
3. Look at the sheet: 4 steps to analyse knowledge (p19). How could this help students?

As with Apply, teaching strategies explicitly can students to Analyse better. Equally important, students need regular opportunities throughout secondary science if they are to develop fluency with all the processes.

Ready to move on? Time for the 6th law of mastery.